How do you approach sales? Are you a slick salesperson always angling to close the deal? Are you a proponent of the soft sell to gradually win people over?

I recently did a mini-presentation for MaRS’ Entrepreneurship 101 program about sales. It was an interesting exercise because most of my presentations are about marketing and storytelling. In creating the presentation, I looked at how I do sales to provide some personal insight.

In general, my approach to selling is grounded in a belief my product (strategic and tactical consulting services) delivers value for startups looking to jump-start their marketing. I want to make startups better at marketing. Yes, it sounds hokey but it is rewarding to help entrepreneurs succeed, and it’s something that I believe in.

I would describe my sales style as enthusiastic, authentic and focused on helping clients drive their sales funnel. Most of my clients have challenges to resolve – be it a mediocre Website, a lack of marketing and sales collateral, not enough leads or sales, etc. In a world full of marketing options and marketing consultants, they’re looking for someone who can help them navigate unknown waters.

In selling, I follow the following principles or best practices:

  1. Listen to what the potential customer wants to do. It is difficult, if not impossible, to know what product or service to offer unless you understand their needs, fears, motivations, goals, etc. Often, people suggest they are interested in a particular project but when they provide more the information, the scope changes. For example, a potential customer could suggest their Website needs to be redesigned, but the real issue is their message is confusing and ineffective.
  2. Be clear about what you do and whether there is a good fit with their needs. In an ideal world, this sets the stage for success because the customer gets want they need, rather than what you want to sell them. As important, you need to be clear about what you don’t offer. For example, I don’t do media outreach or PR. If a potential customer wants these services, I’ll refer them to other people. This gives the potential customer want they need and, as important, allow you to focus on what you do best.
  3. Don’t push too hard to close a deal. There’s a balancing act between pressuring someone to make a purchase and being too laid back. In many cases, potential customers need to time consider their options and embrace the idea of making an investment, even if it’s going to benefit their businesses. After meeting a potential customer, I’ll follow up with an email to see if they have any questions. If I sent a proposal, I touch base a few days later. I figure that if someone’s going to become a client, they will do it when they’re ready for me.
  4. When a deal closes, it is important to establish expectations and how the work will get done. Being clear from the starts allow everyone involved to learn how they will dance together. It allows a project to move forward in a way that makes both sides happy because there is transparency and pre-determined rules of engagement. Sometimes, it takes time for a project to gain momentum. Sometimes, it is important to re-establish the project’s mandate and timeline.

How do you sell? What are the most effective ways that you get prospects into the funnel, and then how do you get them down the funnel?

Here’s a 20-minute video of the MaRS presentation.


If you’re looking to jump-start your startup marketing, I can help you make it happen – everything from messaging and brand positioning to strategic planning and content development. I published a book, Storytelling for Startups, that provides strategic and tactical guidance to entrepreneurs looking to embrace the power of story-driven marketing.

Photo credit: mattjiggins via VisualHunt / CC BYiv>

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